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Washington Nationals news & notes: Nats drop 3-2 decision to Mets; MacKenzie Gore out early + more...

Notes and quotes from the Nationals’ series-opening loss to the Mets...

Gore vs NYM Again:

MacKenzie Gore struck out 10 of the 25 batters he faced in his six-inning, 101-pitch outing against the New York Mets in Citi Field late last month, allowing a run on four hits and two walks in a 4-1 win on the road for Washington’s Nationals.

“Double-digit strikeouts, they happen or they don’t,” Gore said after the game, downplaying the significance of the high strikeout total (which remains his season-high).

“But my stuff is good right now,” the 24-year-old southpaw added. “If I get ahead of guys, I can — I’m capable of striking guys out.”

“They were in the zone. Fastball was good tonight. We were throwing pretty hard. We were just in the zone with everything, and it was good.”

Gore generated 19 swinging strikes that night, 12 with his fastball, four with his curveball, and three with his slider, and picked up 17 called strikes, nine with his fastball, and eight with his curveball.

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

“When he can pound the strike zone, use his fastball, and throw strike one, he’s going to be what he was today. He’s very effective,” manager Davey Martinez said after the win in NY.

Going into the second start of the year against the Nationals’ NL East rivals, Gore’s manager said he wanted to see that his starter learned from the first start, which does not necessarily mean repeating all the things he did, but building on them.

“For me, it’s understanding what you did, and learn from that, and build from that,” Martinez explained. “You’re going to go up there and face the same guys, is there something that he can do different? How he wants to attack the hitters the next go-around? He did great the first time, right? I’m actually really curious to see how he’s going to handle the hitters and what his approach is going to be, but for me, he’s got to be him.

“And that’s something that I know [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey will talk to him about. ‘Hey, you go out there and you be you. You had success the first time. Don’t try to overdo what you did last time. Just go out there and you be you and understand that we’re going to catch the ball behind you, but go out there and you be you.’”

Gore walked as many batters in the first last night (2) as he did in the whole outing in New York, with a two-out single, and back-to-back free passes loading the bases before he got Starling Marte to fly out to center field to end a long, 37-pitch frame.

The 24-year-old came out for the second with a 1-0 lead, and worked around one and two-out singles in a 22-pitch frame.

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Gore was up to 79 pitches overall after giving up one and two-out singles in the top of the third, and 84 after he stranded both runners in a 25-pitch frame.

Lane Thomas made a leaping catch at the right field wall for out No. 3 of a 1-2-3 top of the fourth, robbing Brandon Nimmo of extra bases and helping Gore through a 12-pitch frame which ended up being his last...

That was it for the lefty, who, as noted above, threw 92 in six when he faced the Mets in NY.

MacKenzie Gore’s Line: 4.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks, 96 P, 58 S, 1/5 GO/FO.

“I actually threw some first-pitch strikes,” Gore said, as quoted by MASN’s Bobby Blanco, after what ended up a 3-2 loss, in which he got nine swinging strikes total, seven with his fastball, and 16 called strikes, 10 on his four-seamer.

“I didn’t locate off-speed. And they also did a much better job tonight of not chasing. Just had some misses and just didn’t locate off-speed, I didn’t think, really, at all. So it was tough. We managed to get through it. But yeah, I just didn’t locate the secondary pitches very well tonight.”

“I liked the way he just, you know, he fell behind, fell behind and he kept grinding,” Martinez said of Gore’s outing. “Kept getting big outs. He came up to me - and I love that about him - he said he had more in the tank, and I told him ‘I’m not gonna do that. I mean, four innings and (96) pitches, I need you for more games than just this one.’ But I love the fact that he even came up to me and asked me. So it was awesome.”

“He battled,” the manager added, “he gave us as much as he could possibly give, but I can’t send him back out there at 96 pitches.”


• Luis García spit on four pitches out of the strike zone from NY Mets’ starter Tylor Megill and took a one-out walk, stole second base on the right-hander and catcher Francisco Álvarez, and scored on an RBI single by Joey Meneses, who put the home team up 1-0 early in their series opener with their NL East rivals.

• Lane Thomas has struggled at times with plays at the wall, but it’s something he’s worked on with the Nationals’ coaches over the years, and the right fielder went up for a long fly to the fence with two out in the Mets’ fourth, and made a leaping grab in front of the wall, for out No. 3 of starter MacKenzie Gore’s fourth scoreless frame, robbing Brandon Nimmo and helping to keep a 1-0 lead intact.

Jake Alu made a heck of a play in left field too ... and also collected his first hit in the majors:

• Alex Call lined a 3-2 fastball up high outside from Tylor Megill to right field for a leadoff hit in the Nationals’ half of the fourth, and he took second on a groundout by CJ Abrams, then scored on a ground ball to short by Jake Alu which Mets’ shortstop Francisco Lindor tried to backhand but whiffed on, E:6, and 2-0 Nationals.

• Andrés Machado worked around a two-out single for a scoreless fifth, but came back out in the sixth and gave up a leadoff single by Starling Marte and a double by Mark Cahna, so the reliever got a visit from Pitching Coach Jim Hickey. Machado made a surprising choice on a chopper back toward the mound by Brett Baty, throwing home for the out at the plate instead of going to first, keeping it 2-0. Cahna didn’t advance on the play, holding at second base, and a groundout to first followed, two down. Carl Edwards, Jr. came on and issued a base-loading, two-out walk to Brandon Nimmo, then fell behind 3-1 to Francisco Lindor before getting to a full count and giving up a base-clearing double into the right-center gap, 3-2 NY.

“Machado, nothing you can do about that, broken-bat single, and the bloop,” Martinez said in his post game presser, “... and then he got two big outs for us. And the matchup was [Edwards, Jr.] on Nimmo, and the walk, the walk, we talk all the time about him walking guys, and he’s got throw strikes. If he throws strikes, he’s good. He walks him and then he goes behind to a really good hitter, 3-2. Didn’t really hit it hard, but he hit it good enough.”

BACK PAGE - Basement Talk:

It was a nice try, but the reporter who asked Davey Martinez about the possibility of his club climbing out of fifth place in the NL East this weekend didn’t have a chance.

The Nationals started the four-game series 1.5 games behind the fourth-place Mets, but the skipper in the nation’s capital is Mr. 1-0 Every Day, Mr. Be Where Your Feet Are, and there was no way he was going to talk big picture when there was a game to play. So, nice try, but nah...

MLB: New York Mets at Washington Nationals Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

“I say this a lot, and I know you guys hear me say this, our focus is about today, and we’re doing really well about just staying in the moment,” Martinez said. “And that’s something that I preach to the guys all the time, ‘Be where your feet are. Worry about today, focus on today, and let’s go 1-0 today, and go out there and compete.’ And we’ve been doing really well.

“I know what’s at stake. I want the boys to just go out there and relax and continue to play the way they’re playing. They’re having a lot of fun, they’re playing with a lot of energy, and I know that everybody can see that. So just go out there and continue to do that. I don’t focus on anything but the Washington Nationals. So we’re going to go out there today and compete.”

García In More Detail:

Luis García went 0 for 4 with a walk in the series finale in San Francisco, bringing an end to a five-game hit streak on the road trip, over which he went 11 for 27 (.407/.448/.593) with a pair of doubles, a home run, two walks and four Ks in 29 plate appearances, going from a .223 AVG on the year up to .264 before the start of the the four-game series with New York in the nation’s capital this weekend.

Early this year, García has seen fastballs 21% of the time, according to Baseball Savant, with a .250 AVG on four-seamers on the season, and he’s hitting just .111 on changeups (17.2%).

Against sliders (17.2%), he had a .300 AVG before last night’s game, with a .389 AVG on the sinkers he’s seen (12%) and a .385 AVG on curves (11.4%).

New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

As his manager noted on the recently-completed road trip, García’s Chase% is way down in 2023, 24%, after he put up Chase%(s) of 30.6, 34.9, and 40.8 in his first three seasons in the majors, and Davey Martinez brought it up again in talking about the run García has been on this year, and what’s behind it.

“He’s got like a 25% chase rate, and he’s doing a great job of just trying to keep the ball in the zone, no matter what it is,” Martinez said.

“He’s had some good swings too at breaking balls, which is nice. But he’s got to understand, ‘Hey, you cannot chase.’ The minute he chases that’s when he gets in trouble.”

And it’s not just taking cuts at any ball in the zone, but where he’s more likely to barrel them up and do some damage.

“He’s got to understand that for the most part he’s got to get the ball up in the zone, he’s really good when the ball’s up. And don’t chase them. 2-0 3-0, I mean, just be ready for a fastball, and if they happen to throw you a changeup — we’re trying to teach him, ‘Hey, you still got two pitches left, you know, don’t chase unless it’s up.’”